Linda Bush addresses
the issues sincerely.
But the RCMP?

Mounties will gladly accept legislative changes,
as long as Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops
continue to run the show

April 21, 2010

The presence of Linda Bush would seem to add credibility to any RCMP media appearance. She has born her grief with dignity and discusses the issues sincerely. Today’s press conference was no exception. Unfortunately there’s still reason to be skeptical about any RCMP statement about police accountability.

(Additionally, it will be interesting to read informed commentary about why Robert Dziekanski’s mother got a payout and Ms. Bush didn’t.)

Ms. Bush was on the right track when she told the Globe and Mail: “We want true civilian oversight in this province and not the Alberta model that is civilian led but still uses police officers investigating themselves. We want to see the Ontario model here. It seems to be working well there now.”

She told the press conference that “it will be up to [B.C.] legislators to create the necessary laws and investigative body; they need to hear from us, the people, that we want civilian investigators.”

But the RCMP’s proposals have fallen far short of that. They’re limited to cases involving death or serious injury at the hands of police, leaving out a wide range of other serious offences. The RCMP want “external” investigations to be handled by cops or, at best, ex-cops. Ms. Bush has addressed that point, apparently to no avail.

Public discussion almost entirely excludes a further issue: Even if the RCMP were brought under some kind of provincial oversight, even if by some miracle B.C. were to implement civilian investigation of police, the current staff at B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner would be exactly the wrong people to take on those responsibilities.

They’re exactly the wrong people to handle their present responsibilities: “oversight” of B.C.’s municipal forces.

Police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe can’t hold public confidence after his infamous decision to clear the four Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death. Lowe emphatically stated that it was “reasonable and necessary” to Taser Dziekanski five times. That monstrous claim is completely at odds with Thomas Braidwood’s findings on Taser use, Paul Kennedy’s Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP decision, the RCMP’s own payout and apology to Dziekanski’s mother, and Paul Pritchard’s video.

Deputy police complaint commissioner Bruce Brown, a former RCMP officer for 32 years, routinely rubber-stamps police cover-ups. That’s how he makes his living.

OPCC investigative analyst Rollie Woods routinely conducted police cover-ups while head of Vancouver Police Professional Standards. That’s most likely why the OPCC hired him.

Woods is also very well connected within B.C.’s tightly knit police community. He’s a former colleague of Victoria police chief Jamie Graham, Abbotsford police chief Bob Rich, Vancouver police chief Jim Chu, many other Vancouver officers and likely more throughout the province.

Woods and Brown represent the worst of the old-guard police ethos that encourages dishonesty, condones gratuitous violence and perpetuates an “us vs. them” attitude towards the public. Professional media coaching might have helped OPCC staff say all the right things to the media. But their work is another matter.

OPCC staff not only block police accountability but they themselves are unaccountable. As an independent officer of the legislature, B.C.’s police complaint commissioner answers to absolutely nobody. In practice that immunity also applies to the ex-cops on his staff.

Ms. Bush is right in suggesting that B.C.’s MLAs (on both sides of the legislature) need to change their thinking about police accountability. But even if they introduce legislative reforms, Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops will continue to block police accountability.

The RCMP and other police forces know that. They make public assurances knowing full well that whatever happens their people — people very close to the police — will continue to run the show.

Go to News and Comment page
Go to Stan Lowe and OPCC page